When people ask what I do and they find out part of my job is photographing newborns, 9 times out of 10 they say 'ooo that's nice and easy because they just sleep don't they?' and then I chuckle and shake my head. When I explain that a shoot can often take up to 4 hours people look at me in disbelief and when I try to explain how long it takes to edit a newborn set I'm pretty sure they either don't believe me or think I'm just slow at my job ;-)
Believe it or not newborn photography is very complex. As well as lighting and posing there are parents expectations to manage and even prior to the session I have to gain their trust. After all, they are putting the most precious thing in their lives into my hands, often within just 14 days of being born! As a newborn photographer I am in the most privileged position and I take this very seriously. This is why newborn safety is an absolute priority for me, from getting the room the right temperature to understanding what poses I can use naturally and what needs photoshop is crucial. On the internet there are so many 'nailed it' threads with images where people have tried to copy stuff off Pinterest. As funny as they are there is a really serious message that those images are a real hazard to those babies, to the most precious gift anyone can ever have. Paying a professionally trained newborn photographer is crucial. Also most of the professional images on pinterest are composites.. this is a technical term that means 2 or more images put together and the baby is supported in parents hands or by an assistant at all times.
Also some of newborn photography is an illusion - see the image below, it looks like mum and dad is holding baby in the air next to a black backdrop. In reality this baby way lying on dark material on top of a bean bag and mum and dad slid their hands underneath so it looks like they are holding their baby up. They aren't. The baby is fully supported at ALL times. It is incredibly dangerous to try this pose without support because babies have a startle reflex and any sudden noise can cause them to move suddenly and then there is a risk of baby falling.
Everyone loves those sleepy newborn baby images and they must be easy because babies sleep all the time right? Wrong! To get these poses perfectly baby has to be in a deep sleep and the slightest movement or noise can cause induce their startle reflex so I have to be extremely patient and put time into it. To be in a deep sleep baby must be fed and warm (when I say warm, I mean WARM..this is because newborns aren't able to regulate their own temperature so we need to do it for them. I often get to people's houses and because the parents find it too hot they have opened windows etc and the temperature just isn't high enough to photograph their newborn naked). A typical session can mean numerous feeding breaks, especially for breast fed babies and this is absolutely fine. It gives us a chance to chat, for baby to have a break and for me to set up new scenes so you get a variety in your images. Time really isn't an issue for me, after all this is totally set by your baby and his or her needs come first. Always.
I like to strip baby down and use one of my wraps, usually in a soft neutral or pastel colour. Newborns mostly like being swaddled and it can calm them down tremendously, often allowing them to feel safe enough to fall asleep. This is because at 2 weeks they still think they are in the mother's womb and being swaddled nice and tight enables them to feel the same way. Obviously they don't all sleep and that's ok, it's always a bonus to capture a photograph of a newborn with their eyes wide open and parents / grandparents love it! Some babies stay awake for most of the session and I leave hoping that that is the night they will sleep all night for mum and daddy.
I like to keep it as simple as possible so limit my props to the occasional basket, most of my work is showcasing your baby how they are and the poses I use capture their unique expressions and gorgeousness. It can take a while to get baby perfectly positioned for the image, because little things like unclenching their hands needs a lot of patience. Any sudden noise or touch can cause their reflex to clench them up again and then I start all over again.
Introducing siblings to the shoot is always something I do after the portrait session of baby alone. It allows the sibling to settle their excitement. I also like them to be wearing matching tones to how I've wrapped the baby, cream always works so well. For sisters I have spare wraps which they can wrap around themselves creating a continuous texture and thus a much better photo. Sibling shots get tricky when toddlers are included, and having a 2 year old I know only too well that if they don't want to do something, they won't! I do have some tricks up my sleeve for overcoming this which involves a little photoshopping (but works!!!).
Including parents within the shoot is actually my favourite part and I am always surprised at how many refuse to have their photograph taken. Often mums don't feel attractive enough right after having a baby but really this shouldn't stop you. At the end of the day the photos are for your children to cherish when they are older. They need to see you were there. Also we have the advantage in a digital world that if you don't like it, they can be deleted anyway... so really, what's not to lose? I promise that with my style of shooting and editing you will love the end result and won't regret slapping some lipstick on to get in those photos. So if ever offered... please please say yes and have a photograph with your brand new baby, you won't regret it.
I hope that answers some of the questions and concerns I receive when people are thinking of booking a newborn shoot. I also hope it stops people from trying stuff they've seen on pintrest, not knowing how much some of the things posted actually puts newborns at risk. Please get in touch if you are interested in a newborn shoot, ideally when you are pregnant to avoid disappointment. I also love doing maternity shoots too and offer a package when booked with a newborn session. Here's my favourite maternity images to finish up. Thanks so much for sticking with the blog and reading it until the end xx